During the Children’s Sermon we made a rainstorm together to show that we can only do so much on our own. We can do more together, our sound is amplified, we are moved by the work of the Spirit in different ways.
What does it look like when the Spirit shows up? Would you be able to name those times when the Spirit has shown up in your life? How does the Spirit show up?
In the Acts reading this morning, we get to hear the first known encounter with the Spirit. I say “first-known” because, as a member of the Trinity, the Spirit has been there since the beginning with God the creator and God the Savior. This is not the first time the Spirit has intervened. But this is first time she is named and identified and has an unmistakable presence.
When she shows up among the disciples, there is the sound like a violent wind, tongues of fire appear, and different languages are spoken. That must have been an incredible experience. So much so, that those outside imagine that the 120 apostles gathered are in an altered state. The Spirit’s presence was unmistakable. And this story is known as the birthday of the church – the day when the church was inspired, literally breathed into, and the Spirit’s work among us as the body of Christ began.
How many of you watched the Royal Wedding yesterday? Did you hear Bishop Curry’s sermon? For those of you that don’t pay attention to such things,
the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the US is the one who got to preach at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle yesterday. And he did a fantastic job preaching about the power of love, one of the gifts of the Spirit. Love has the power to heal, and the power to change the world. He asked us to imagine what the world would be like if love were at the center of all of us, if we did everything in and out of love. I quote: “When love is the way, then no child will go to bed hungry in this world ever again. When love is the way, we will let justice roll down like a mighty stream and righteousness like an ever-flowing brook. When love is the way, poverty will become history. When love is the way, the earth will be a sanctuary. When love is the way, we will lay down our swords and shields, down by the riverside to study war no more. When love is the way, there’s plenty good room, plenty good room, for all of God’s children. Because when love is the way, we actually treat each other, well, like we are actually family. When love is the way, we know that God is the source of us all and we are brothers and sisters, children of God. My brothers and sisters, that’s a new heaven, a new earth, a new world, a new human family. And let me tell you something, old Solomon was right in the Old Testament, that’s fire.” (Read Bishop Curry’s sermon here.)
The Song of Solomon reading in the wedding was about the power of love. Here’s an excerpt: “love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If one offered for love all the wealth of one’s house, it would be utterly scorned.” (Song of Solomon 8:6-7)
The power of love is a lot like the power of the Spirit we celebrate today. Bishop Curry even talked about fire as the one thing human civilization cannot survive without. That with fire, everything has been possible, from cooking and sanitation, to the migration of humanity to colder climates, to the capability for engineering and technology. Fire is at the very center of our existence.
With the flames of Pentecost, it seems like a good parallel to speak of the Spirit as the center of our existence, too, our spiritual existence. It’s by the Spirit’s power that we do anything with love or compassion. It’s the Spirit that empowers us to serve others, and to live as children of God. It’s the Spirit at work that brought us all here today, just like it was the Spirit that gathered the apostles together on the first Pentecost day. It’s the Spirit that opens our ears and our hearts to hear what God is saying, just like the Spirit opened the ears of those present to hear God’s deeds of power spoken in their native language. It’s the Spirit that draws us together and sends us out – to be called, enlightened, and nourished in the community of faith. Just like with our rainstorm, the Spirit strengthens us in our work together. We need to stand together in love, in charity, in humanity, to have an impact. It’s the Spirit that draws us together. And, thankfully, the Spirit intercedes for us in prayer in those times when we have no idea where to start or what to say.
Pentecost is the third biggest or most important celebration of the church. And yet, you would never know it. There are no Pentecost cards, and I would guess most people don’t have a Pentecost brunch or make a special effort to show up on this day like they do for Christmas and Easter. One of my colleagues talked about the reason for that being that Pentecost is the festival that requires something of us. Christmas and Easter are relatively easy. They invite us to hear the story, and often that’s where it stays. The story remains insular – it stays within the church. But Pentecost requires of us to take the story elsewhere! Pentecost is the commissioning of the church. It’s the beginning of the ministry of the body of Christ, empowered and gifted by the Spirit.
What does it look like when the Spirit shows up? As far as the scripture is concerned, it’s not about good looks or lots of money, or even about having the natural ability to speak about your faith. The Spirit shows up when we are open to her work, and even when we’re not. In many mysterious ways. Thank God it’s not all left up to us alone. Thank God for the accompaniment of the Spirit! Let’s go live in love and hope, by the power of the Spirit.